Pre-season friendlies are measured differently to the rest of the summer. Spending a decent amount of time out in the middle is chief among players’ concerns, while coaches look for signs that long hours spent planning and training indoors during the winter have paid off. There’s a sense of release about playing some kind of competitive match again and getting out on grass after months under artificial lights. Results and personal achievements are, for now, of less importance.
By any measure though, Somerset’s opening game against Glamorgan in the chilly but immaculate surrounds of Taunton Vale last Monday and Tuesday can be counted as a promising start to the summer.
Missing a number of first-team regulars, Somerset bowled the visitors out for just 130 on day one before declaring on 314-7 in their first innings. 2015 beneficiary Pete Trego immediately hit form with the bat, top scoring with 94, with Alex Barrow and Lewis Gregory also made pleasing half-centuries.
Glamorgan were more resilient second time around, reaching 130 again, but for the loss of only two wickets, by the time the match was called off as a draw.
Assistant coach Jason Kerr said: “We were very pleased with the way that the whole game went for us. At this time of the year it is so important for the guys to have time out in the middle whether they are batting or bowling. We were playing against first class opposition, so to get two days of cricket under our belts was great and I think that we acquitted ourselves really well.
“At this time of year people are wanting to hit the ground running. After all the work they put in during the winter they want to see it coming to fruition and I think everybody left Taunton Vale on Tuesday evening very pleased. I think that everything we did in the game wasn’t too far off where we need to be. Obviously we need to build up over the next three weeks, but we have set the bar high very early which is a great start and testament to all the work that the lads have put in during the long winter months.”
Going into the game, Director of Cricket Matt Maynard was keen for his bowlers not to be overloaded so early in the year, but mindful of the need to give them enough spells in to prepare themselves for the opening championship game against Durham on 12 April.
“Alongside that,” Maynard added, “we wanted to start playing the brand of cricket that we discussed in Spain, which is synonymous with the county and is what Brian Rose and Andy Hurry created here, and try to develop that.”
It was hard to draw any conclusions from Maynard’s selections for this match. Somerset simply chose from the players available to them. Alfonso Thomas and Craig Overton continued to recover from injury, James Hildreth was away on MCC duty in the UAE, while Josh Davey and George Dockrell were both allowed a period of rest following their participation in the World Cup. New signings Tom Cooper and Abdur Rehman have yet to join the county.
That meant a Somerset debut for Jim Allenby, and in a 12-a-side game, chances for both of the county’s young wicket-keeper/batsmen Alex Barrow and James Regan to show what they could do behind the stumps.
Somerset’s bowlers made regular inroads into the Glamorgan batting line-up, removing the visitors in just 54 overs, only David Lloyd making an impression among the top order with an attacking 34 off 44 balls with seven boundaries. Craig Meschede, on loan to Glamorgan, put up a bit of resistance at the end to take the Welsh county past 100 before he was the ninth man out for 19.
Tim Groenewald had few opportunities in the championship last season and took the opportunity to impress his new director of cricket, by picking up three top order wickets in his nine overs for 21 runs, including the first two to fall. With Maynard keen to rotate his bowlers and not put rush Thomas or Craig Overton back before they are fully fit, Groenewald could well start the season in the first XI.
Jack Leach also took three wickets with spin, returning extremely economical figures of 6-2-9-3. There was also one wicket apiece for Trego, Gregory, Adam Dibble and Jamie Overton, who looked to be back bowling close to his old pace again.
Somerset stuttered in reply on Monday evening, losing skipper Marcus Trescothick, Johann Myburgh and Jim Allenby for 33 before night-watchman Lewis Gregory and Alex Barrow came together to steady the ship.
Resuming on day two at 69 for 3 off 19 overs, the pair saw the 100 up in the 30th over of the innings. Both batsmen flourished in the sunny but cold conditions and Gregory went to his half century with a well-timed cover drive off Meschede in the 33rd over.
The fourth wicket pair took the total onto 129 after a stand worth 96, when Gregory was caught behind for 66 (120 balls, 11×4).
That brought Trego to the crease, who was in belligerent mood, smashing 10 fours and 3 sixes off the Glamorgan attack as he shared in a 145-run stand with Barrow for the fifth wicket in 27 overs.
This was an important innings for Barrow. Rather than recruit externally following Craig Kieswetter’s injury, Maynard has backed his young keepers to step up and take their opportunities. So this was an early chance for Barrow to make a statement of intent.
In total he spent four hours at the crease, building a patient innings of 77 off 170 balls, mixing defence and consolidation with some attacking shots, including nine boundaries and looked in good touch.
The Trego/Barrow partnership was eventually broken when Trego, who had hit Meschede for a straight six, was caught behind trying to hit a huge drive off the same bowler. Barrow fell in the next over without addition to the score, mistiming a drive off Dean Cosker and being caught at mid on, to leave Somerset 274-6.
Regan and Groenewald shared a spirited stand of 31 before Trescothick declared on 314-7.
When Glamorgan batted again, Groenewald struck early to remove James Kettleborough, but the visitors showed more resolve second time around and William Bragg (45) and Ben Wright (74*) shared a 125-run stand in 25 overs. Jamie Overton struck just before the close to have Bragg caught by Regan, who took the gloves in the second innings, and the captains shook hands shortly afterwards.
Afterwards Barrow said: “It has been a very good work out for us and I think that everyone has got something from it. First up out bowlers were good bowling a team out for 130 is always a good sign and we fielded well which was good place for us to start.
“It was great to get outside on the grass again, to get some overs in the legs from the keeping point of view and a couple of dismissals is always nice to get you going. Then batting I had a lot of time out in the middle and put a few runs on the board. Pete Trego came in and played well for 90 odd and Lewis also did well, earlier in the day.”
Talking about the bowlers Barrow said: “Jamie Overton looked very quick and when he hits his straps and bowls quick he is right up there so hopefully he will bowl like that all season for us. Tim Groenewald bowled nicely in the first innings same with Lewis and Dibbs and Leachy as well so I think that everybody has got something from this match, which is what we wanted.”
He added: “We put in a good display as a team and for Matt’s first game in charge of things I feel that it has gone very well.”
Somerset team (12-a-side): Jim Allenby, Alex Barrow, Adam Dibble, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, Jack Leach, Johann Myburgh, Jamie Overton, James Regan, Peter Trego and Max Waller.
Somerset’s pre-season friendlies continue with two T20 encounters with Gloucestershire at the County Ground in Taunton today. We’ll have news of those games on The Incider later this week.